Perhaps the Saviour’s most frequent exhortation was: “Follow Me.” He used it not only to call the Apostles – like Matthew at the tax office – but also to invite the rich young man to embark on a new path.
In the first case, the publican rose immediately, abandoned his former life and invited Jesus to a banquet. The young man, on the other hand, chose to flee the call. His heart, given over to earthly goods, blocked the road that leads to holiness.
St. Augustine points out that there are only two ways or “cities”: that in which one loves God to the point of self-denial, and that in which one loves self to the point of forgetting God. Or even better put, there is only one true path, namely, the one identified with Christ himself: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (Jn 14:6). Every other is a detour.
Some suggest that any path of life is valid. If “all roads lead to Rome,” in the end “everything will work out”… But is that true?
The objection to this position is found in the life of the Apostles. Judas not only betrayed the Master, but also His ways of salvation. Jesus judged that it would be better “if he had not been born” (Mt 26:24). Peter himself, who had promised to follow Christ even at the cost of his life, denied Him three times. These examples illustrate that the heavenly homeland is not guaranteed, even for those whom the Redeemer has summoned personally.
Although the path that leads to God is luminous (cf. Ps 118:105; Jn 8:12), it does not exclude the ascetical dimension: “If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Lk 9:23). The detour that leads to perdition is wide and broad, and “those who enter by it are many” (Mt 7:13). It may seem straight, but “its end is the way to death” (Pr 14:12).
St. Paul underscores that whoever turns away from the personal calling follows Satan (cf. 1 Tim 5:15) and his snares. And the greatest of these is dissimulation, when weeds are planted in the wheat field, or seeds are sown outside the furrow.
It is worth noting that the worst of these seeds are sown by the “false prophets,” those wolves in sheep’s clothing so often unmasked by the Saviour. These are the same ones – at times from the pulpit – who defend that all paths are valid. And even more: they openly decree hell to be empty…
In reality, as St. Bernard points out, a sinful conscience is already in itself “a kind of hell” and a “prison of the soul” (De quatriduo Lazari, et præconio Virginis, n.4). Indeed, an iniquitous life constitutes a hell that has already begun. On the other hand, the way of sanctity and the path of integrity (cf. Pr 10:9) gives us a foretaste of heavenly beatitude.
Mary Most Holy is the best companion on this journey. After all, She already completed it perfectly with her life and Assumption. Therefore, dear reader, let the words of the Saint of Clairvaux resound within you: “Following Her, you will never go astray.” This is the shortcut to salvation. ◊